The book is about Julia who, post-divorce, moves into a fixer-upper home on the outskirts of Boston to start over. She starts digging for a garden in her backyard and finds the bones of a person, who turns out to be the murdered corpse of an early 19th-century woman. Julia becomes sort of inexplicably fascinated with this woman's story, as it is tied to that of her new home, and begins to research the past with an interested accomplice claiming to be a relation of the dead woman. Something like that. So the story switches back and forth between 1830 and The Present, as Julia discovers more information on the murder and the related West End Reaper murders, while back in 1830 a group of medical students - one of which Oliver Wendell Holmes, whose "major role" in this whole thing I'm still not sure I get, except that he wrote a bunch of letters - try to find out the identity of the Reaper themselves. There is some romance, lots of murder, pretty gruesome autopsy scenes and depictions of the effects of diseases on hospital patients. We're treated to some background on medical practice in the 19th-century, for example, doctors didn't know to wash their hands to keep from spreading disease and unwittingly caused the deaths of a whole lot of patients.
I didn't get, as I said, the role of OWH in this story. I also didn't get the ending at all (somebody turns out to be someone's something, and therefore the other person is really someone else's something). But you know what, I didn't really care enough to re-read or backtrack in my memory for possible answers. Considering the type of book, I would expect everything to wrap up nicely - and it did, a little too nicely and I would say predictably except for the fact that I really don't know the new-found identity of Julia. I get the other guy, which I knew anyway beforehand. But yeah, I don't really care. Sorry.
And that's that. I don't expect to read another thriller or detective story any time soon. So we'll be back in about a week - or longer 'cuz it's one of those hard, scholarly books I don't read very often - with Ronald Hutton's The Triumph of the Moon, about witchcraft in modern England/America. Cool, right?